Video: Why extreme child poverty has skyrocketed in Maine

Video: Why extreme child poverty has skyrocketed in Maine

Extreme child poverty in Maine is surging—a 50% increase over the last five years is the sharpest of any state in the nation. This must-watch video from Maine Equal Justice Partners explores this issue by  telling one family’s story about how arbitrary and punitive public assistance policies cause undue hardships for parents and make life needlessly hard for thousands of Maine kids:

 

The reasons for the surge in extreme poverty are simple: A recent brief by the Scholar Strategies Network describes the shift in policy-making that occurred in Maine in 2011. Until five years ago, researchers describe Maine as providing “reasonable assistance to poor families in crisis, helping them gain the skills they needed to achieve economic independence.” But with the inauguration of Governor LePage and Republican legislative majorities after 2010, there began a marked shift towards policies grounded in penalizing poor families instead of solving the root causes that land families in poverty.

Over the past five years, more than half of families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (or TANF), including more than 16,000 children, have been cut from the program. Tens of thousands of people have lost their food supplement benefit and over 40,000 Mainers have lost health care due to eligibility changes to Medicaid.

Over 48,000 Maine children now live in poverty and half of them in extreme poverty.

The solutions to this problem are equally clear, and yet, elected leaders haven’t acted. Instead, the LePage administration continues to scapegoat poor families, kick people off food assistance and withhold millions of dollars of federal funding meant to support low-income families who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Mountains of research show that growing up in extreme poverty can have impacts for generations and extend beyond the struggles of individual families. Kids from poor families have lower rates of school attendance, more run-ins with the criminal justice system, and more joblessness. Even a small increase in family income has the ability to put children on a different life trajectory, as the rapid development of young brains are disproportionately leaves them sensitive (and vulnerable) to environmental conditions that result from growing up poor. The impacts of this surge in extreme child poverty will be felt for decades to come.

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